New fossils suggest ancient origins of modern-day deep-sea animals

Oct 10, 2012
These are fossils of deep sea fauna discovered off the coast of Florida. Credit: Citation: Thuy B, Gale AS, Kroh A, Kucera M, Numberger-Thuy LD, et al. (2012) Ancient Origin of the Modern Deep-Sea Fauna. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46913.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046913

A collection of fossil animals discovered off the coast of Florida suggests that present day deep-sea fauna like sea urchins, starfish and sea cucumbers may have evolved earlier than previously believed and survived periods of mass extinctions similar to those that wiped out the dinosaurs. The full results are published Oct. 10 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Ben Thuy and colleagues from the University of Göttingen, Germany.

Previously, researchers believed that these present-day animals evolved in the relatively recent past, following at least two periods of mass extinction caused by changes in their oceanic environment. The new fossil collection described in this study predates the oldest known records of the present-day fauna. "We were amazed to see that a 114 million year old deep-sea assemblage was so strikingly similar to the modern equivalents", says lead author Ben Thuy.

According to the authors, this evidence shows that the ancestors of modern deep-sea animals have lived in these deep waters for much longer than previously thought. That this collection of fossils appears to have survived several drastic changes in oceanic climates also suggests that deep-sea biodiversity may be more resilient than shallow-water life forms, and more resistant to than previously thought.

Explore further: More than two dozen articles provide insights on mummies

More information: Thuy B, Gale AS, Kroh A, Kucera M, Numberger-Thuy LD, et al. (2012) Ancient Origin of the Modern Deep-Sea Fauna. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46913.doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046913

Related Stories

Researchers trace octopuses' family tree

Nov 12, 2008

Many of the world's deep-sea octopuses evolved from species that lived in the Southern Ocean, according to new molecular evidence reported by researchers at Queen's University Belfast.

Seafloor Creatures Destroyed By Ice Action During Ice Ages

Oct 19, 2005

The ice ages made massive changes to the Earth's landscape. But what was happening below the ice in the oceans? Research by marine scientists reveals that it was a time of mass destruction as whole communities of animals ...

Study reveals secret sex life of fish

Feb 22, 2006

Scientists have long thought of deep-sea pelagic fish as nomadic wanderers, but now they suspect the fish may be meeting at ridges or seamounts to spawn.

Recommended for you

More than two dozen articles provide insights on mummies

May 22, 2015

In a special issue, The Anatomical Record ventures into the world of human mummified remains. In 26 articles, the anatomy of mummies is exquisitely detailed through cutting edge examination, while they are put in historical, archeo ...

The Bronze Age Egtved Girl was not from Denmark

May 21, 2015

The Bronze Age Egtved Girl came from far away, as revealed by strontium isotope analyses of the girl's teeth. The analyses show that she was born and raised outside Denmark's current borders, and strontium ...

Oldest-known stone tools pre-date Homo

May 20, 2015

Scientists working in the desert badlands of northwestern Kenya have found stone tools dating back 3.3 million years, long before the advent of modern humans, and by far the oldest such artifacts yet discovered. ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.